There are many benefits of swapping city life for the country, but for interior designer and homeowner Brielle, one of the most charming is the daily school run. “The worst traffic we get is ducks crossing the road!” she says. Brielle and her builder husband Andrew moved from Sydney to Bowral in the Southern Highlands. “I never thought I’d leave Sydney, but Bowral has wonderful vineyards and restaurants, and it’s a great place to raise kids,” says Brielle. “I’ve fallen in love with it.”
Brielle. “I’ve fallen in love with it.” Another plus: the move allowed Brielle and Andrew, who both work for Andrew’s building company AECB, to pursue their shared passion of renovating homes. “Because we were new to the area, we weren’t sure if Andrew would get work straight away, so we thought this house would give us a project,” explains Brielle. “He ended up getting lots of work, so we had to do it all in our spare time and on weekends.”
Who lives here: Brielle, an interior designer and office manager; Andrew, a builder and their sons.
What prompted the move? Brielle: “We came down from Sydney for a weekend one winter and decided this was where we’d like to live. The area has a lot of charm”
Any renovation must-haves?“We love to eat, cook and entertain, so I wanted a really big island bench in the kitchen; something that would make it easy to mingle with guests, and feel effortless.”
What inspires your style? “I love interior design books. I don’t seem to be able to walk past a bookstore without buying one! I love to display them on our bookshelf like pieces of art.”
Favourite spot in the house? “The front room. You can sit with a cup of tea and look out at the magnolia tree. It’s been here since the 1950s, so we couldn’t bear to get rid of it. In summer it blooms with flowers, and in winter, when its leaves have dropped, it lets in the warm sun.”
Situated on the side of a hill, overlooking the township, the original 1950s-era house was rundown and riddled with asbestos. “We saw it during winter and it looked a bit sad and sorry for itself, like nobody had maintained or loved it since the first owner,” recalls Brielle. “But it had a really nice aspect and huge front windows, plus it was close to town, the local pool and bike tracks. It seemed perfect for us.”
The couple moved in and started work on the landscaping while awaiting council approval. Despite plans to significantly alter and extend the building, Brielle and Andrew chose to live on site with their sons. “We converted the garage into a rumpus room, gym and laundry, and moved into it while we ripped the whole of the upstairs to bits,” explains Brielle.
No space was spared under the new plans. The size, shape and layout of the entrance, lounge and bedrooms were all rejigged to provide a better sense of flow and greater privacy in the front of the house. At the back, two wings were added, one containing a new kitchen and dining area, the other the master bedroom and ensuite.
Here, soaring timber-lined ceilings add character and a sense of grandeur. To maintain some of the home’s original charm, the couple saved the large timber windows, and Andrew, who has his own timber yard, created large panoramic doors for the back of the house. He also custom-built the kitchen, bathroom vanities, garage door,
dining table and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in the living room.
“He buys old bridge timbers in bulk and makes things out of them,” explains Brielle. “The dining table is beautiful; it features all the knots and burrs of the timber.”
After two-and-a-half years of busy weekends, Brielle and Andrew were thrilled to finally finish their home. Aesthetically, it’s a blend of coastal, country farmhouse and contemporary styles, an approach reflected in the eclectic mix of furnishings and finishes Brielle has pulled together with panache. Some pieces were bought new, while
others, such as the black-painted Windsor dining chairs, were sourced second-hand.
“I think it works putting unexpected things next to each other,” says Brielle. “It reflects your own personality and past experiences and makes your home so individual.”
The couple loves to entertain, so the kitchen, custom-built by Andrew, centres around a big island bench, paired with rattan bar stools. “When friends come over we all stand around the island bench, chatting over a cheese platter,” says Brielle.
“I also wanted the kids to be able to sit and chat while they do their homework.”
Winters can be bitter in Bowral, so Andrew and Brielle chose a cosy leather sofa warmed up with cushions from Etsy.
Brielle found the coffee table and black-and-white photo, ‘Central Park’, at Oz Design Furniture. “It brings a really nice atmosphere to the house,” she says. The sisal rug was a clever choice for a family home; “It adds natural texture and is almost impossible to stain!” says Brielle.
After reworking the living room layout, Brielle thought the side wall seemed a little stark. The solution: custom-made, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves made by her very handy husband. “Andrew built them out of Oregon timber with lining boards on the back, then we painted them white,” says Brielle.
The new kitchen and dining space boasts soaring cathedral ceilings and a series of skylights that flood the area with light all year round. The floors are cypress pine stained a rich chocolate brown. “I love the colour – it just really pops against the white,” says Brielle. Andrew crafted the dining table from reclaimed red iron bark bridge timber.
To create a restful retreat, Brielle kept the furnishings in the master bedroom to a minimum and instead created impact with coastal colours: a stormy grey on the walls and shots of deep blue in artworks and cushions.
Splashes of yellow and turquoise give the eldest boys’ room a mature but light-hearted feel. The graphic-look bedlinen, throw rug and yellow table are all from Adairs.
“I wanted the youngest boys’ room to be fun and capture a bit of their personalities,” says Brielle of the nautical-themed zone. The bed frames were sourced from Dirty Jane’s Emporium and are dressed in boyish tones of red and blue.